Chapter Summary: So Larry is back in the real world and he wants answers.
Warnings: Strong language, sexual themes, death, violence, blood, and yaoi.
Disclaimer: Sherry, Larry, and the rest of the OCs are mine. Himaruya owns everyone else.
A Conversation With the Devil
"I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig, you get dirty; and besides, the pig likes it."
-George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics
The Real World: Wednesday
My heart jumped and refused to fall down again. In the bright, florescent lighting I could clearly see that gleam in Sherry's eyes. She looked so guilty- the way she looked at me as she unconsciously played with the edge of her jean skirt. Her mouth was slightly opened, as if she just wanted to spill the truth right there and then. I closed my eyes, lowering my head.
Deep inside, even without her saying the words aloud, I knew what she was going to say. Deep, deep down, I knew the undeniable truth. I shook my head. "That couldn't be right, " I told myself sternly. "I did my side of the contract. Gilbert drank the vial. She has to be alive. "" I took a deep breath. That's right. She's alive. She's okay.
Stella is fine.
Wearing my confidence on my sleeve, I looked up at Sherry again.
Two streams of tears were falling from Sherry's eyes. They traveled down her cheeks, making the puffy redness of her face more prominent. The ache in my chest increased as she took my hands in her, lowering her face to them as she shook her head. I swallowed. "T-that's not right," I said softly. I shook my head. "No, no, no- that can't be right. I gave Gilbert the vial. I did everything they wanted me to."
A sob left her throat as she lowered her face more. I thought that she wasn't going to be able to speak, but as she continued to shake her head, she croaked out the two damning words: "I-I'm sorry."
I ripped my hands away and, in an instant, was on my feet. I stood in front of Bella and Sherry, realizing that tears were blurring my eyes and but quite aware of them yet. My sister stared at me with eyes so wide it looked as though she had just seen death itself. "That's impossible!" I yelled, never flinching when Bella curled up into herself and stared blankly ahead. "I did everything I was supposed to! I completed Himaruya's contract-"
I paused. Sherry's look was pure loathing, a wave of sweat appearing on her forehead. Her eyes were sunk into her skull, blazing with the haunted look of a girl who screamed in her dreams. Trepidation consumed her body, making her hands shake uncontrollably. Something looked like it wanted to leave her mouth, but she couldn't bring herself to speak. She looked at me with a kind of horror, like I was the monster she was trying to run away from.
My head reeled with the reality of the situation.
Stella was dead.
I stumbled back, placing a hand on my head.
I had to get out of there. The air inside of the hospital was making me choke. No matter how many times I gasped and wheezed for the delicious breath I so desperately needed, it escaped me. My eyes darted around the room. I saw the glass, automatic sliding doors. The rain was still pouring outside, coming down in harsh falls. Without another word, I ran for it.
I ignored Sherry as she shouted at me, only rejoicing when I reached the outside parking lot. The cold rain drenched me in seconds, cooling off my hot skin as I ran through the parking lot and to the edge of the sidewalk, My toes barely touched the rushing midday traffic. The few people who dared to breach the outside world stared at me oddly as I stood in the middle of their path, lifting my face up to the rain. Everything from my plaid shorts to my black jacket was drenched in the soothing liquid. For a moment, I simply let the rain wash away everything that had happened to me in Hetalia.
I let it erase the existence of Alfred.
I forgot about The Romanov and everything that happened there.
I banished the thought of Lars and Antonio and Gilbert from my mind.
I let the rain wash away everything and anything that could cause me more pain than I already had. Yet no matter how long I stood there, I couldn't erase the fact that Stella was dead. And it was all my fault. I bowed my head low, ensnaring my fingers into my orange locks. If Liechtenstein was here, she would have wrapped her arms around my shoulders and told me otherwise. My tears were warm as they traveled down my face. "Liech, are you there?" I asked, practically on my knees begging. "Please- I need your help."
She didn't reply. She wasn't there.
Why did I still feel like there was someone else inside my head?
I pulled at my hair, cursing everything about me. Great, now I was being delusional. Get a hold of yourself- you're in the real world now, Larry. Here, people like Liechtenstein and Gilbert do not exist outside of fiction. Here, nothing that happened on The Romanov matters.
I felt a pang in my chest. That's right- nothing I did matter. It was all inevitable in the end. No matter what, that car crash really was going to kill Stella. I was foolish to believe that anything I ever did was going to change that. I really was stupid. I was stupid for loving her, for being her friend, for being insensitive, for never telling her how I felt.
I groaned, stomping my foot on the ground. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to run into the traffic and get hit by a car. I looked before me. Countless cars zoomed before me, creating a blur of colors and noise. Tires squealed, engines roared, radios played. The sign said that the speed limit was forty-five. I knew that if I ran jumped right in front of a white truck, I was pretty much done for. True, there might still be a chance for me to live, but if I made sure that the bumper hit my head-
I shook my head. No, I shouldn't do that. Life was precious. I was just looking for an escape- an escape through pain. I looked to the left, down the street where Sherry and I drove down earlier. The hospital was about five miles from our house. If I ran, I could make it home in an hour or so. I adjusted my black coat. I've never ran that long before. My body hurt already- I might as well be a practicing masochist for even thinking about it.
I sprinted down the road.
A few people shouted as I shoved past them. My heart pounded in my ears, drowning out all other noise. I couldn't hear anything, not even my own mourning thoughts. It was good. I didn't want to think right now, I didn't want to be reminded of how badly everything turned out. I just wanted to embrace the strain in my legs and the burn in my lungs. The longer I ran, the worse it got. Still, I had to keep running. I had to run from it all. I had to evade my problems.
Slowly, the busy town streets faded away into a neighborhood. No one was outside- the rain had them cornered in their houses. It was just me and the burden I bore. I watched as Daisy Avenue, Mulberry Street, and Daffodil Lane all pasted in a quiet blurr. The only sound was my pounding feet as I ran past Juniper Park and Elementary School. I took a left at Pine Cone and Plum. Then I finally reached the tenth house down Lavender Lane.
I stood in the middle of the street. The soft yellow house was the same it always was. The curtains were closed. The old oak tree in the front still had the frayed tire-and-rope swing. The mailbox still has Sue written in obnoxious red cursive. Sherry's buggy sat in the driveway. And, to my confusion, Sherry herself sat on the front steps. She held her black umbrella over her head, protecting herself from the downpour. Her skirt was soaking, though, and water made her hair bound in limp strands.
The haunted look was still in her eyes- her gaze boring straight through me. I flinched. It hurt more than any of the wounds my adventures as Liechtenstein gave me. Panting heavily, I stayed in the middle of the street, watching Sherry as she slowly rose to her feet. "Can you come here?" she called. She was barely louder than the pelting rain. "We need to talk."
I didn't move. I simply stared at her.
"I'm sorry- I should have broken the news to you better," she said, clutching her umbrella closer to her chest. I couldn't ignore the painful plea in her voice. "And I should have ran after you but I couldn't leave Bella there by herself. So I'm sorry-"
I couldn't bear it any longer. "Why are you apologizing to me?" I demanded, walking up to the front steps. "You did nothing wrong. I'm the one at fault here." I only stopped when I was in front of her, looking down at bowed head.
Sherry bit her lip, shaking with an unspoken emotion. She whispered, "You were gone for two hours. I thought you hated me."
I sighed, "Why would I hate you?"
"Because this is all my fault." I took a step back. What? What did she mean by that? I was the one who messed up here, not her. I felt as though she was lying in order to make me feel better, but I wasn't sure. She refused to look up at me. She only grabbed her arm, trying to hold back her trembling as she explained, "If it wasn't for me, Himaruya never would have laid eyes on you. If only I-"
"You know Himaruya?"
Sherry's head snapped back up, her umbrella dropping from her hands. For a moment, we both looked at each other, different glints in our eyes. I could see in guilt in her irises, swirling around and around in a never ending cycle. I was sure that she could see the stunned shock in mine as well. But we also looked at each other with understanding. Deep, indescribable understanding. It felt as though I couldn't breathe. "What happened to you?" I asked faintly.
She sighed. "Let's go inside," she said, reaching down to pick up her umbrella. "It'll be easier in there." As she folded it shut, I reached out to stop her. I wanted to know now. I held myself back. It can wait. If what she went through was anything like me then this would be hard on her.
The house smelled pungently of freshly made sugar cookies. As I took off my soaking wet converse and coat in the foyer, I could see the white delicacies on a plate on the island. I scanned the living room and kitchen- both dark. "Where's Jerry?" I asked, hanging my jacket up in the closet.
Sherry shrugged, peeling away her drenched socks. "He was with Mom when they arrived at the hospital," she said. "It's just you and me." She looked at my clothes. "I'll go get you a towel." It was like she was running away from me, her bare feet patting on the wood floors as she fled to the guest bathroom.
I was left alone in the foyer, dripping wet with water, sweat, and tears. I leaned against the front door, closing my eyes and taking a long breath. I thought that I would never come back here. I missed this place so much, I missed my family, my friends, my-
"Larry, what are you doing in my house?" Stella asked, giving me the softest of smiles as I continued to make little rice balls in my hands. "And so early in the morning too."
I clutched my chest, slipping down to the floor when my knees gave out. I gritted my teeth together, trying my hardest to keep my tears away.
My dear Stella.
"Here." I snapped my head up just as Sherry was emerging back into view. She had a white towel wrapped around her head, drying up her hair. Another was draped around her like a cape. My own towel was folded up and tucked under her arm. I was smart enough to scramble to my feet and wipe away my tears before she could notice. If she knew how much I was breaking right now, I might never get the answers I needed from her. Sherry gave me my towel, watching me as I quickly dried myself off as much as I could before wrapping it around myself. I pressed my face into the fabric.
It smelled like the fake floral scent all laundry detergents had.
I followed Sherry like a lost puppy to the island and seated myself at the stool. She stood across from me. A dim gray light filtered in through the glass doors, making the world seem black and white. I watched uncomfortably as my sister placed her elbows on the counter, pressing her face into her hands. She was struggling- that much I could tell. She was treading water and was barely able to keep her head above the surface. She looked like she wanted to tell me flat out everything that happened to her, but she couldn't find the right place to begin.
I picked at my towel, unable to look at her. What should I say? I looked around me, remembering how the last time I was in this kitchen I so cruelly taunted her for things she had no control over. My eyes went wide as it suddenly dawned on me. I turned back to her, carefully choosing the right words to say. "Sherry, what are your nightmares about?"
She dropped her hands, keeping her face low as she shook her head. "Depends," she said softly. "Sometimes it's flashbacks of the terrible things I did. Sometimes it's him, dead. Sometimes it's Seychelles. But it's always Sadiq getting hurt because of me."
Seychelles. That Red Coat girl that we held captive for a while was involved with Sherry. I wasn't sure who this Sadiq guy was, but the regretful look in her eyes was enough to tell me that he meant a lot to her. Sherry took a deep breath, forcing herself to continue. "It was really stupid of me, Larry. I was just starting to think that I was finally safe. It happened three years ago so I thought that he really was gone for good."
"What happened?" I asked, inching closer to the counter. "What happened to you?" I was pushing it, I know. But I needed the answers. I had to know exactly what was going on. "What contract did you make?"
"I wasn't the one to make the contract," she told me. Sherry idly reached out and took a cookie off of the plate. I followed her lead, trying to appear natural as I took it in my hands. She nibbled a bit on the edge, sighing again as she explained, "The person with the contract was Sadiq. I was simply the bystander that got dragged into it. Really, I kinda just woke up one morning to discover that I was in Seychelles's body and that I couldn't leave until the contract was up."
I opened my mouth, ready to demand more from her- like who was Sadiq and what was his contract? -but I held it in. She looked like she was in so much pain already. I didn't want to rub the salt into her wounds. I took a large bite on my cookie in some vain attempt to gag myself. Sherry sighed, pushing the towel off of her head in order to run her hands through her hair. "I was really irresponsible about it, you know? I knew what I had to do yet I insisted on doing the opposite of it. I nearly killed Sadiq. He's my best friend and yet I nearly killed him."
I couldn't stand it anymore- I had to know who Sadiq was. "Sh-" I gagged, clutching my throat as I coughed up a huge chunk of cookie.
Sherry immediately ran around the counter, lunging to my side. "Are you alright, Lar?" She demanded frantically, clutching my face as I coughed a bit more. I gasped, hissing in pain. What the hell? I forgot I had the cookie in my mouth. I couldn't even taste it.
I looked down at the cookie with wonder. I couldn't even taste it. . .
Sherry dropped her hands, backing away from my slowly as she looked at me with horror. "Oh my God, it's him," she whispered, bumping into the fridge door. I ignored her as she started to hyperventilate, twisting and twirling and tangling her fingers through her hair. "He wouldn't let me tell you. He wouldn't let me-" Tears fell down her face. She gasped for air. "He's back. Himaruya's really back. Oh God . . ." She shook her head fiercely, trying to rid herself of the damnable thought as she repeated the two words over and over again. "Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God. . ."
I, meanwhile, was stuck in my own head. I couldn't muse enough over the oddity of my situation. I choked on a cookie because I forgot it was in my mouth. I forgot it was in my mouth because I couldn't taste it. Why couldn't I taste it?
I raised my head, eyes widening as it dawned on me.
Sherry sniffled, suppressing a sob as she started to shake. "This is all my fault," she cried to herself. The towel around her shoulders fell lifelessly to the ground, barely making a noise. "Oh God- I should have just stayed silent. Now Himaruya's going after you and it's all my fault- I never should have told you anything. I should have just listened and kept silent-"
Sherry paused. Slowly- very slowly -she looked at me, stunned. My sister was silent for the long moment it took me to slide off of my stool, my towel falling to the floor, with a cynical glare in my eyes. When she spoke, it was in a weak whisper. "What?"
I grimaced, slowly walking towards her. She pushed herself closer to the fridge. Her face was painted into a huge gape with beads of sweat dripping down her forehead. In the dark of the kitchen, I waved my half-eaten cookie in front of her face. "Sugar cookies have a very strong taste, but I can't taste anything," I said, evenly cold and dangerous. I stopped just a few feet from her, leaning into her face to hiss, "And didn't you tell me yourself that you can't taste anything in dreams?"
A new wave of tears fell from her eyes. "So you don't believe me?" She asked. She looked like a lost and defenseless child, one whose hopes I harshly crushed. I raised my chin. I knew I was right. "Have I really . . ."
"Who are you?"
She stopped shaking then. She stopped crying. She stopped sweating. For a moment, she simply pressed herself close to the fridge, staring at me blankly. Something in her face unnerved me, making my feet want to fidget. I held it in, determined not to lose my intimidating air. I was right, I knew it- this was all just a dream. Stella was alive in the real world and the Sherry before me was telling me nothing but lies.
A hollow laugh pierced through the air. "How comical." My limbs froze up as a Sherry coolly brushed my hand away, saying, "Everything was going perfectly until a simple cookie got in the way. And to think they said that your despair would blind you of the flaws of dreams."
I stared at her, unable to move. This person had my sister's body- I knew that, yet she looked so different from her. There was something about the way she smirked at me with narrowed, challenging eyes. I forced myself to stand tall and return the look. "Who are you?" I demanded again.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "Do you really need to ask me?" she said, now leaning against the fridge casually. "I think that if you put enough thought into it, you can figure it out yourself."
I could? My eyes glided over her frame, trying to understand what she meant. I knew already? But when I had I ever met someone who- oh wow, I am an idiot.
"You're Agatha," I said.
Agatha smiled, clapping her hands slowly. "Bravo, Larry," She said, dragging out each syllable humoredly. "And on your first guess too. You really are smarter than that girl."
I gritted my teeth. "Who's that?"
"I think you know that already," she said as she winked cutely. I didn't like it. I didn't like the way Agatha held my sister's body. I didn't like how she can switch from looking sinister to being an average teenage girl in a matter of seconds. I didn't like it. It made me feel sick. Agatha took a step forward. "But enough of that," she said firmly, changing back into that vile demeanor. "There's other matters I must attend to."
I raised my brow, taking a cautious step back. "And what's that?"
She shrugged. "Distracting you, but there's not much fun in that, right?"
"Distracting me from-"
She clamped her hands around my neck, pushing me back into the island. Whatever break I had left was knocked out of my lungs from the sharp pain of the counter edge banging into my back. Agatha strangled the rest of my breath out of me, sneering as I tried to push her away. I knew that I was stronger than her, yet no matter how much I kicked or punched or clawed she refused to relent.
For a second, I thought that the reason the edges of my vision went black was because of the lack of air. Wasn't that the reason why everything was so blurry already? But then two familiar voices called out and the next thing I knew, the air was rushing back to me. I coughed, feeling myself be dragged into someone's chest as everything in my head cleared up. I was saved, I realized. And the people who saved me from her were no other than the owners of the two most glorious pairs of green eyes I had ever seen.
"Are you alright, Larry?" Antonio asked, brushing some of my hair out of my face. He was, for some reason, wearing the white suit that Alfred and Roderich were known for, yet it didn't make him appear intimidating. In fact, it made him look like the angel rescuer he was. "Are you hurt anywhere?"
I groaned, placing a hand on my forehead. "Jesus Christ, Antonio- I was just strangled!" I exclaimed hoarsely. "Do you really think I'm okay?"
He chuckled, holding me a bit closer to his chest. "I'm glad. I was a bit worried that you wouldn't be able to escape that siren's clutches, but you broke the mirage yourself just fine."
I scowled. "And whose fault was it that I got stuck there in the first place?" I demanded as I tried to sit up. All around me was the black expanse of the void, stretching out for miles on end. Great, I was back in limbo. Was I ever going to get home?
He only held me closer. A sheepish grin painted his face as he laughed nervously. "Sorry about that," he said. I bit my lip, trying not to scream out as he buried his face into my shoulder. "Roderich and Alfred caught me off guard there. I hope you can forgive me for not helping you."
I rolled my eyes. "Okay, fine," I said hastily. "I forgive you, now-" I pulled myself away, pushing him back as I tried to peel his arms away. "Would you let me go already?"
"But I waited so long to hold you like this!"
"I swear to God, Antonio!"
A sharp whistle broke through the air, causing me to freeze mid-punch. We both stared at Liechtenstein as she easily pinned Agatha down with some expert martial art hold. I didn't know whether I should be more amazed that my sister's look-a-like followed me here or that Liechtenstein could contain her with one hand. Said girl took her fingers out of her mouth and gave us a fake, pleasant smile. She said, "Sorry to interrupt your flirting, boys, but I'm holding a very dangerous person in my hands and I would like to know what I should do."
Antonio sighed, finally dropping me out of his arms. I landed on the black ground, grumbling as I brought myself back to my feet. I watched as he bent down onto one knee, discerning Agatha coldly. "I'm glad you've decided to show your true colors, Agatha," he said evenly. "I was starting to believe that my brothers forgot about you."
I knitted my brows, trying not to look as surprised as I was. All this time, Agatha was due to Alfred and Roderich? I placed my hands on the sides of my head, rubbing my temples. All this time, I was being played. I knew that there was a something off about her, but for it to be this . . .
Agatha raised her head a little, baring her teeth. "My purpose here is not to let you taunt me, Aluino," she growled.
He raised a brow. "Then what is it?"
"I'm here to tell you that Himaruya requests that the three of you go to him immediately."
Liechtenstein shot her gaze to the man, silently begging him to refuse. I felt the same. My mouth was just itching to tell him to forget it, but I bit my tongue. There was something bigger going on right now- Lars and Mathias made it plain enough. For some reason, I was part of this bigger plan. It killed me to think that I had no idea what it was. Wouldn't Brutus want to know he was a puppet of Shakespeare's control?
Antonio bit his lip, pondering his options. By the way he glanced between Liech and I, it was evident that he didn't want to bring us, but he knew that he had no choice. At last, he lowered his head and sighed. "I'm sorry guys, but she's right," he said, slowly rising to his feet.
Liechtenstein only tightened her grip, saying, "You can't be serious. Why should we even listen to her?"
Antonio frowned, giving her a sharp look. "Because even though we're 'safe', Lars and Mathias are not." He turned half way, standing perpendicular between her and me. "We still have a chance of saving her, but in order to do so we have to go to Himaruya."
I shook my head. "It could be a trap."
"It probably is." A sick feeling developed in my gut. Hey, Antonio. You're supposed to ease my worries, not strengthen them. "If there is one thing the true creator has taught me, it's that Himaruya weaves webs- webs of lies and Faustian promises. It's nearly impossible to predict what he's planning or what his motive may be. But that's why we have to go against him now. We're the only ones who are capable right now to oppose him. Even if we fail, we have to try."
"You make it sound like we're not the first," Liechtenstein said. She hesitantly looked down at Agatha and frowned at her bored visage. "But are we really the only ones who can do this right now?"
Antonio nodded. "The first time wouldn't be for centuries." We were silent for a long, thoughtful moment. Even if his words contradicted themselves, Liech and I both knew that he was right. We were the only ones who could stop Himaruya. This was our responsibility. We both nodded, reluctant to take up that cross. Who would want to do something like this? Antonio smiled just the tiniest bit, motioning for us to move, saying, "Alright. Liech, get off of Agatha. She's going to lead us to the false creator."
As Liechtenstein reluctantly got off her and pulled her to her feet, Agatha flashed her fangs. "Why do you need me to guide you, Aluino?" She demanded sharply, fighting against Liech as she held her hands behind her back. "You know where it is."
"Well how else am I going to explain your presence here?"
Agatha's faced dropped. She glared at him for a moment longer before finally resigning. "The Room's that way." She jerked her head to the right. "Just keep walking straight and we'll reach it."
I gave her an odd look. "What's the Room?" I asked, trotting up to Antonio. I remembered Lars telling me that he used to wake up in a white room, but I wasn't sure if it was the same place. He looked down at me, giving me a warm smile and ruffling my hair. I scowled, brushing his hand away. "I'm not a dog, Antonio. I wasn't asking for attention."
He laughed, already leading us down our path. "That's a cute idea," he said, burying his hands into his white pockets. "It's like a cat has fallen in love with the dog."
A thorough mixture of embarrassment and anger flushed on my face. "Jesus Christ- would you stop that?" I demanded testily. "I'm not gay!"
He sighed wistfully. "Thus is our tragic love story." I groaned, efficiently smacking my forehead. He laughed again, lightly patting my back. "No worries, I know that this is one sided," he told me calmly. He looked down, kicking the ground with the scruff of his shoe. "I just like to pretend that it's not."
I continued to avert my gaze, not even looking up when he adjusted my path of travel. Have to stay in a straight line now. I didn't say anything either. His words were gnawing on the corners of my mind, leaving a pit in my stomach. "Pitiful," I told myself. Antonio was a pitiful person. "Yet . . ." For some reason, one I didn't know, I admired him for it. That kind of perseverance was unknown to me. If Stella told me that she was a lesbian, how quickly would I have given up on her?
"So Liech, you've been kind of quiet," Agatha said, craning her head to look back at the blond. "Don't get me wrong or anything, but you're kind of acting like Switzerland right now. Aren't you usually sweet and kind?"
Liechtenstein sighed and rolled her eyes. "Right. Like I'm going to be sweet and kind to the person who was choking my friend and is on the side of the people who threaten me, my friends, and attacked my boyfriend." I cracked a smile, chuckling as I gave her an approving look. She returned it easily, giving me a smirk of victory.
With Antonio's command, we all stopped. I looked around. We were still in the Void. There was nothing but black all around us. Liechtenstein and I exchanged looks. "There's nothing here," I said. Jitters pricked in my bloodstream, making my legs jump and my palms sweat. Even if I didn't believe it, my body knew that the end was near.
Antonio smiled, pointing an informative finger towards the sky. "So you think. Here's the thing about doors, Larry." He reached out and clasped his hand around what I presumed was an invisible door knob. "They're everywhere. You just have to look." With that, he turned the knob and pushed forward.
A bright- white -light flooded into the Void.
I covered my eyes, shielding away the brilliance. Was Himaruya some sort of angel, shrouded in some glorious bright light or did the darkness of the Void make my eyes weak to the light? Before the light could even disappear, a shadow appeared in the doorway. I heard a man speak. "At last, my second son has arrived."
A chill seeped into my skin. For a second, I thought that I couldn't breathe. It only took Liechtenstein's surprised gasp to remind me that Agatha hadn't destroyed my lungs.
I took in a sharp breath and unveiled my eyes. They adjusted more quickly now- not a single splotch looming in my vision. Maybe it would have been better if those annoying dots were there. Maybe then, I wouldn't be confronted with this. "I also see that you brought dear Agatha back as well," Himaruya said, smirking cruelly at us.
Except, that wasn't Himaruya.
That was Estonia.
I felt my head spin. The quiet, socially awkward guy on the ship is Himaruya? How? Why would he be? Antonio raised his chin a little higher, saying, "Do not address me that way. My name is Antonio, the name the true creator endowed upon me. In that sense, you have no control over me any longer."
Himaruya laughed, prompting Roderich and Alfred to laugh as well. I couldn't see them. They were not in the doorway like this man was. He took a step back, extending his arm into a pure white room. "But please, do come in," he said. "The party cannot start without the guest of honor." He looked at me.
His icy blue eyes looked straight at me.
My back went erect and I took a small step back. I pushed my glasses a little higher up my nose. He was seeping with power. A kind of slimy, goo that infected whoever came too close. A gross contagion. If I got too close, I'll-
Antonio motioned for Liechtenstein to take Agatha inside before quickly leaning down to me. I could feel his hot breath on the rim of my ear as he quickly whispered, "He's terrifying, but he feeds off of fear. If you have no fear then he wouldn't get to you as easily." And with that, Antonio adjusted the ends of his white coat and walked inside.
I stood still. Have no fear? I couldn't just stop being afraid of that . . . monster. " Heck, I hid my problems for the longest of time but I could never get rid of them completely. I looked at Himaruya. He was still at the doorway, still wearing that freaking smirk. "Are you coming, Larry?" he asked coolly. "This party is for you."
I made my resolve. I'll simply ignore it.
My fear, I mean.
"If there isn't a stripper, then I am going to be very disappointed," I said evenly, stuffing my hands into the pockets of my jacket. I also shrugged lightly as I walked past him, saying, "No party's complete without naked ladies." I saw him raise an eyebrow humoredly, but he said nothing. He still didn't lose his intimidating aura, but it was like I didn't care anymore. If I just kept up my act, nothing too bad was going to happen to me.
"Netherlands! Denmark!" Liechtenstein cried out before releasing Agatha and running to one of the room's corners. I took in the sight. The Room was fairly large, though the reflective, white walls and floor and ceiling made everything seem smaller. Everywhere I looked, I saw my own face, staring back at myself with large eyes. It was . . . unnerving. I gulped. Suck it up, Larry. It was just my reflection.
Lars and Matthias were against the farthest wall. They both sat stiffly in white chairs, wearing the starchy white clothes all of the other men seemed to be wearing. Alfred stood behind an excited Mathias's chair while Erwin kept his hand on a bowed-headed Lars. Liechtenstein ran towards both of the men, picking up her skirt as she exclaimed, "Oh my- are you both alright? Are you-"
Mathias shouted, "Step back, Liech! Or else-"
Alfred glided around his chair, stepping between the girl and the Dane. She stopped in her tracks right before she could hit his chest. Standing just a breath's length away, she raised her determined face up to the man. "You're in my way," she said calmly.
Alfred chuckled, lifting his hand into the air. A panic bolt flashed through my body as I temporarily lost my quelled visage. I ran over to them just as Alfred affectionately took a piece of her hair in his hands. I saw Liech seize up as he said, "You got a lot of balls, Liech. I don't like that."
I swatted his hand away, pushing my girl back as I sent him a dark glare. "Stay away from her," I growled harshly.
From behind him, a loud whoop echoed through the air. "Oh wow, Larry-boy!" Denmark called out, laughing a bit in his spot. "You're a ginger. I never would have thought of that!"
We ignored him. Alfred looked down at me with a hard face, though he had it within himself to smirk like his father. "You're adorable," he said. "You really think that you can go against me?"
"There's always a first, Al."
A loud click sound rang through the air, breaking our moment. I glanced back, seeing Himaruya finally close the door shut. Stuck. I was stuck in a room with four of the most villainous people I have ever met. True, one of them was currently struggling against Antonio's hold, but I didn't feel any better. "Back away, Bud," Himaruya ordered, walking elegantly to the middle of the room. "Did I not tell you that this is my stage now?"
Alfred grinned, gladly taking a step away. "Yes you did, Hima-pops. Sorry."
Himaruya nodded. "I know you are." He started to sit down, causing a white chair and table to appear like magic. Sitting with a straight back, he smoothed out his slacks. Everyone held their breath. He looked at and smiled at me. A shiver ran down my spine. "Now is the time to start. Please-" he extended a hand to the other side of the table, causing another chair to appear. "-take a seat, Larry."
I resisted a gulp. Just because the guy seemed to be able to control every object in this room does not mean that I should be afraid of him. I gripped my fist and looked around the room. Mathias's face seemed a little bit sadder. Meanwhile, Lars was finally looking up. He was a dead shade of white, giving me a pleading look. Don't do it. Liech could only look hesitant, sending my gaze towards Antonio. He didn't look happy about the predicament, but he seemed firm when he nodded. Sit down, Larry.
I took a deep breath. Humor the guy. That was all I had to do. I nudged Liech towards the other side of the room where the Spaniard stood before raising my chin and smirking. "Aren't you going to at least offer me some tea?" I asked calmly, taking my seat.
Roderich and Alfred seemed a bit stunned by my boldness, but their father only chuckled. "If that's what you want," he said and just like that, a plain white porcelain tea set complete with small cakes and sandwiches was sitting at the table. There was no knives or forks- things that I could use as a weapon.
I was stuck on what I should do. Something told me that I shouldn't trust any of the food that he was offering me, but that would be admitting fear, right? Delicately, I placed a tea bag in my cup and poured hot water into my cup. Himaruya watched me, playing with his tea bag idly. "Do you like sugar or cream with your tea, Larry?" he asked as I handed him the teapot.
"I like cream," I said. "But I'm not a big fan of sugar. I don't like it when people sweeten things for me."
He laughed heartily. The boom of his voice sent shivers down my spine, making me hold the sides of my cup tighter. "You are a very interesting character, Larry," he said. "More so than I originally suspected."
I brought the tea to my lips. It was surprisingly pretty good. "Is that a good thing?"
"For me, yes since you are, after all, merely a mistake."
I paused, raising a brow. "A mistake?" I asked, placing my cup gently back on the table.
Himaruya nodded, resting his elbow on the table. "Yes," he said. "Merely a mistake. Tell me: is it not peculiar how my dear Erwin was right at the hospital right when you were in need of my services?" I shrugged. Maybe Himaruya saw through my act since his smirk grew more defined. He traced his finger around the rim of his cup. "You may have guessed already that this was all planned from the start. However, you were not the original target. Your sister was."
I couldn't hide the surprise on my face. "Sherry?" I asked, my voice trembling with my worry and fear. "What does this have to do with her?"
It was his turn to give a shrug. "Revenge would be the simplest of answers. Your sister has been here before, in the future naturally, and played a key role in the bringing of my impending demise. Because of her I no longer have a body to dwell in during the twenty-first century, which is why I am here now: to secure a body for the future."
"So she was here?" I placed a hand on my head, leaning into the table. Her nightmares. Agatha was right when she said that they were caused by him. I snapped my head back up. Agatha. I looked at the reflective wall, double checking to make sure that Liechtenstein and Antonio were still holding her back. Antonio looked a bit worried for me, like I was doing something wrong.
In fact, I was.
I shot both he and an anxious Liechtenstein a confident grin before looking back to Himaruya. Smiling pleasantly, I plucked a small sandwich off of the platter. "Is that so? That seems a bit irresponsible. Going back in time and changing history, that is."
He could tell that I had an ace up my sleeve. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. "I suppose so, but this was never a historically accurate place to begin with," he explained. "Take, for example, the ages of dear Italy and Romano. At this time, they should still be little children, but they were teenagers here." I had to agree with him. When I met Romano, he was around my age. "And, of course, there is my sweet Turkey. At this time, everyone should be formally referring to him as the Ottoman Empire, but most call him Turkey. He would not become 'Turkey' formally until the twentieth century."
I nodded and nibbled on the bread. "Yeah, I know. But I'm still unconvinced that you're telling the truth."
"And why is that?"
"It's plain from your demeanor that you use fear and intimidation in order to victimize people like me. But as of yet, I've not been very fearful of you, so you're trying to invoke a fear based on my sister. Sherry has never been here."
He laughed. The atmosphere in the room dropped considerably as he laughed the hardest I've ever seen him. Even Roderich and Alfred looked uncomfortably between each other and their charges as he leaned over and banged his hand on the table. I didn't blink. I simply took another sip of my tea and tried to convince myself that I was not unnerved. When Himaruya finally calmed himself, he said, "You are such an interesting character, Larry. No matter how much fact you see, you insist on believing in a lie." He shook his head, pushing his glasses up his nose. "If you chose to think that way, so be it. I have no say in the matter."
I pressed my lips. I had to take direction of this conversation. I glanced over to Lars and Mathias. My mentor looked like he was on the edge, torn between rooting for me and wanting me out of here. His brother was smiling dumbly, trying to hide the scared look in his eyes. I had to direct the conversation over to them and somehow get Himaruya to release them. I took a few more sips of my tea. How? What would I, as an author, do to prompt the bad guy into discussing everything?
I wrapped my hands around my cup and sighed. "Look, can you just tell me what the frack you're planning already?" I asked testily. I never really skidded around the subject in my writings.
I heard Antonio choke while Alfred and Mathias laughed. Himaruya himself shook his head, looking slightly humored. "So you haven't figured it out already?"
He leaned back in his chair, drumming his fingers on the table. "I might as well, considering that you asked me so nicely." I tried not to be bothered by his tone. "As I said before, due to your sister I no longer have a body in the future. My intent here is to make sure that I have one to switch to when the time comes. Can you guess whose body that might be?" I looked over to Mathias and Lars, but only received a irritating laugh. "That is a nice guess, but you are wrong," he told me cruelly. "I'll give you a hint-" He coughed into his fist. "-I am awesome."